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04/16/2015 12:17 EDT | Updated 04/16/2015 12:59 EDT

How To Reduce Stress (Almost) Without Trying

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Is there anyone these days who isn’t chronically stressed? We lead busy lives these days: work, school, kids, volunteering, hobbies, commuting, fun. It’s hard to feel like you can step off the treadmill for a break, but the consequences of not doing that are pretty unappealing.

Stress increases the levels of the hormone cortisol in our bodies, and this can have negative short- and long-term effects, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the short term, while cortisol can give us a quick energy burst — an evolutionary leftover from when stress was most likely to be the result of something life-threatening — extreme stress can also leave a person feeling tense and fatigued once that initial rush wears off. And over time, increased exposure to cortisol in our bodies can affect our thyroid function, contribute to blood sugar imbalances, impair cognitive performance, affect sleep, lower immunity, increase blood pressure, and increase abdominal fat.

There are bigger ways to combat chronic stress: avoid your biggest stressors, alter the stressful things in your life that you can change, accept that some things just need to pass, and adapt to stressful situations by finding coping methods. But there are also smaller steps you can take to give yourself a break and relieve some stress, ones that will fit within your everyday life.

Here are 11 of them below — share your own tried-and-true stress busters with us in the comments.

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